Craig Harris/Macon County Times Red Boiling Springs junior Bishop Moore – a transfer from Jackson County High School – is expected to be the Bulldogs’ starting wide receiver.

Craig Harris/Macon County Times

Red Boiling Springs junior Bishop Moore – a transfer from Jackson County High School – is expected to be the Bulldogs’ starting wide receiver.

The Red Boiling Springs High School football program is much more settled than it was a year ago.

With a coaching change occurring in early June of 2018, the Bulldogs were quickly transitioning as Matt Swoner took over as the head coach.

RBS now feels more stable as it enters its second season under Swoner's leadership.

"There's more players and more help (coaches)," Swoner said. "Everything about this year is a whole lot better."

Swoner added assistant coach Kevin Reynolds just prior to the start of last season, and now, Sean Link also joins Swoner, Reynolds and defensive coordinator Derek Meador. Link will serve as the offensive coordinator.

That leaves the Bulldogs optimistic as the team looks to improve on last year's winless campaign.

"We tell the kids, 'Surprise everybody … shock everybody,'" Swoner said. "(Qualifying for the) playoffs is always a goal. It's a goal for everybody.

"After going 0-9 last year, our goal is to win a game, then win another game and go from there. Let's have some success, improve the culture here and maybe build something."

Despite suffering a 47-6 loss at Cannon County to start last season, RBS actually received a forfeit victory due to the Lions having used an ineligible player.

"They respond well," Swoner said of this year's players. "We stay on them pretty hard. We try to push them a little bit and see how they respond. We stay hard on them and get after them a little bit. Friday night is not going to be easy. It never is … but they respond well.

"You have good days, and you have bad days. But on the bad days, it seems like everything is better. We're still getting better. For us as coaches, it makes it so much easier."

The Bulldogs are changing offensive systems, transitioning from a wing-T to a spread set.

"We have a bunch of good kids who are very attentive," Swoner said. "They listen. That's helped with the transition. It's made it a lot easier. When you have a bunch of coachable kids like we have, the transition becomes easier."

Senior quarterback Walker Reynolds will direct the offense after having played tight end last season.

"He's a good kid," Swoner said of Reynolds. "He's a good leader. He has all the intangibles you ask for in a player. He has done real well picking up on things. He's a smart kid, a smart football player.

"The transition wasn't that hard for him. The biggest thing was the footwork. He's worked hard."

Juniors Dylan Templeton and Michael Mathews are expecting to start at running back. Senior Zach Swank could also see action at running back.

"(Templeton) runs hard," Swoner said. "He's come a long way from sophomore to junior year. It's overall maturity as a player.

"It's just little things (with Mathews) … physicality. He's willing to come up more (in run support on defense). He's a little more aggressive. He has gotten 10 times better. He's coachable. He'll do what you tell him to do. He never misses practice. He's someone we can depend on day in and day out."

Senior Dalton Thompson is a returning starter, but he'll move to an H-back position this season.

"Overall, we're a little better in the backfield, so we can spread it around a little more," Swoner said. "Dalton will help us. We'll get the ball in his hands and let him do his thing. His physicality as a blocker really helps us more than anything."

Junior Devin Justice is another returning starter, but he's transitioning from offensive guard to tight end.

Junior Bishop Moore - a transfer from Jackson County High School - is expected to start at wide receiver. Sophomore Christian White could also see action at receiver.

Senior Bradly Atkins is another returning starter who is changing positions, moving from center to offensive tackle.

"He's the most experienced (offensive lineman)," Swoner said. "We consider him our best lineman. We're a little harder on him. We moved him to tackle for the sole purpose of running off tackle. It's important for him to step up and be the senior and the player we know he can be."

Newcomers are expected to comprise the remainder of the offensive line, with freshman Devan Hackney at center, sophomores David Barnett and Drew Thompson at guard and senior Logan Graves at the other tackle spot.

Sophomore Osvaldo Uterera could also see action up front.

"We try to push them," Swoner said of the offensive line. "We understand that there's going to be some growing pains. We just have to stay on them. They have to be physical up front, because they are undersized. The biggest thing is trying to get them to develop that motor to go (play with intensity)."

Mathews is expected to handle the placekicking and punting responsibilities, with Swank serving as the long snapper.

Templeton could return both punts and kickoffs.

Swank will return kickoffs as well, and Reynolds is another option to return punts.

Many of the same starters on offense will start on defense too.

RBS will employ a 4-3 front on defense, with Akins, Barnett, Graves and Hackney the likely starters on the defensive line.

Uterera could also see action on the defensive front.

"It's depth and being young up front, staying healthy," Swoner said of the team's biggest concerns.

The linebackers will likely consist of Justice, Moore and Thompson.

Justice is a returning starter at linebacker.

"Our linebacking corps should be very good," Swoner said. "Our linebackers and secondary are the strength of our defense. We feel very confident in those guys. They're all juniors and seniors, so we expect a lot out of them."

Templeton and Swank are the likely starters at cornerback, with Mathews and Reynolds at safety.

White will also see action in the secondary.

"The secondary has been there a long time," Swoner said. "You have a lot of experience there. It helps when you're not as strong up (front) as you'd like to be … it helps when your secondary can come up and help out and make big plays for us."

Swoner has been pleased by the team's work ethic.

"We tell them that as coaches that we can only take them so far," Swoner said. "They have to go the rest of the way. It's important to have leadership. You can't win without good leadership. We've stressed holding themselves accountable. We have stressed staying positive and working hard every day. Then, the win/loss record will take care of itself."

Gordonsville is the two-time defending champion in Region 4-1A. They were joined in last year's Class 1A playoffs by fellow 4-1A foes Monterey, Jo Byrns and Clay County.

"It's hard to pick against Gordonsville," Swoner said. "There's going to be some other good teams in the region. It's hard to pick against Monterey and Coach (Scott) Hughes. Coach Hughes does an excellent job up there.

"You look at the top three or four teams … getting in the playoffs is a tough task. That's why having good practices is important, so that we can be as prepared for those tough match-ups as much as we can."

RBS opens the regular season with a contest at Sunbright on Aug. 23.

The Bulldogs start district play two weeks later, hosting Monterey on Sept. 6.